The world saw its first powered router in 1915, more than a century ago. In all these years, the basic principle of the router has not changed. A router, like a drill, is fundamentally a rotating shaft with a cutting bit at the end. You can use the cutting bit to shape edges, drill holes, cut rabbets, and make joints. With a single router and set of bits, you can create marvelous details and decorations to your woodwork. That’s why every workshop needs to have a router.
Since you’re here, you’re looking for a router. But, you may be wondering, “What is the best wood router? How do I know which one to buy?” Don’t worry, these questions are normal. Buying a router isn’t easy. Mainly because there are so many things to analyze. But, to make things easier for you, we’ve tested over 80 different wood routers. Then afterward we compiled our top 5 picks into this list for you to choose from. So, shall we get started?
(Best for the Money)
|DEWALT DW618PK||22 lbs||4.5/5|
|Bosch MRC23EVSK||25 lbs||4.3/5|
|PORTER-CABLE 690LR||9 lbs||4.1/5|
The Bosch 1617EVSPK is the best wood router on the market. Its 1.9 hp motor delivers an impressive torque of 1.27 pound-feet at 8000 RPM and 0.41 pound-feet at 25000 RPM. Using the 6-position dial, you can select the right RPM for the material you’re routing.
Its trademark Constant Response™ technology gives a uniform finish by preventing RPM fluctuations. This machine comes with a fixed base and plunge base. The fixed base lets you cut up to 1.625 inches. With the plunge base, you can cut up to 2.25 inches deep.
The micrometer style fine adjustment mechanism lets you set your depth in increments of 1/256th of an inch. No other product in this price range can match this level of precision. This machine accepts bits of 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2”, and 8 mm. If you like to rout with exotic bit sizes, this is the router for you.
But, the product does have an important downside. The warranty on the product is only for one year. Other products in our list have very attractive warranty policies. Overall, the Bosch 1617EVSPK rates high on performance and price. So, it’s not surprising why this is our top pick.
If you’re looking for an economical solution, the DEWALT DWP611PK is the wood router you must go for. It is the best wood router for the money. It is about 20 percent cheaper than our top pick. However, the reduction comes at the price of performance.
This 1.13 hp machine can rotate the bit at a range of 16000 RPM to 27000 RPM. At its lowest speed, the DWP611PK produces 0.37 pound-feet of torque. If you set the machine to its maximum RPM, the torque goes down to 0.22 pound-feet. Compared to the top pick, we’re looking at a 70 percent decrease in minimum torque and 45 percent decrease in maximum torque. So, the DWP611PK is not ideal for cutting hardwood. And since the machine operates at a high RPM range, you must stick to small routing bits. At these speeds, a big routing bit can burn your workpiece.
The DWP611PK also comes with a fixed base and plunge base. The fixed base lets you cut up to 1.5 inches deep, and the plunge base lets you cut up to 2 inches deep. So, when it comes to depth range, our budget model is somewhat close to our top pick. But, the fine adjustment mechanism on the DWP611PK lets you set the depth in increments of 1/64th of an inch. This means that the 1617EVSPK allows you to make 4 times more precise changes.
However, the DWP611PK offers a better warranty than our top choice. DEWALT offers a three-year warranty on this machine. That’s not all, they also pitch in free service for one year and a 90-day money back guarantee. Now that you understand the nature of performance compromises, you can decide whether you want to go for our budget model or our top pick.
Unlike our budget pick, the DW618PKB can go head to head against our top pick. If an accuracy of 1/64th of an inch is enough for you, you should buy this model. Now, let’s look into the performance characteristics of the DW618PKB.
The first parameter that I compare is the torque. In this department, the DW618PKB and the 1617EVSPK are equal. So, the two machines exert the same amount of cutting force behind the bit. Even the maximum depth for fixed mode and plunge mode are about the same. Anyway, you can make up the difference by making multiple passes. So, unless the difference in maximum depth of cut is significant, don’t worry about it.
Now, let’s come to the accuracy of depth adjustment. You can set the depth on a DW618PKB with an accuracy of 1/64th of an inch. However, the fine adjustment knob on this machine is more sensitive than the one on our budget model.
This model comes with a collet diameter of 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch. This is the most common diameter for bits. Thus, you will never have problems finding the right bit for the job. Since the machine operates at low RPM ranges, as well as high RPM ranges, you can use bits of every size and type on this machine.
The best part is that the DW618PKB comes with the 3-year warranty, one-year free service, and 90-day money back guarantee. And price-wise, this model is in between our budget pick and the top pick.
Oh, boy this is where things get serious. The Bosch MRC23EVSK is a heavy-duty router. It has a motor that produces 25 percent more power than the Bosch 1617EVSPK and the DEWALT DW618PKB. The benefits of this performance upgrade doesn’t become evident at low RPM ranges. But, at high RPM ranges, this machine produces 25 percent more torque than our top pick.
Now, let’s talk a little more about the torque boost at high RPM. Well, if you have more torque at a given RPM, you can work on harder wood. But, at high RPMs, you can’t use bits with a large diameter. So, when you put these two together, it becomes clear that the MRC23EVSK is way better at cutting hardwood with small diameter bits.
Although RPM corresponding to bit diameter varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, high RPM ranges of 18000 to 25000 RPM generally applies for bits less than 2 inches. So, if you’re routing operations are limited to less than 1 inch, the MRC23EVSK can help you rout any type of wood with ease.
But, I would say that this model is more useful to a someone who does routing at a semi-pro to pro level. For home use, buy one of the other machines. The reason I say this that the features and upgrades on the MRC23EVSK will benefit people who follow a production level schedule.
If you’re looking for a beginner level router to learn routing, the Porter Cable 690LR will give you everything you need to get started. This is a low-cost product. So, you shouldn’t expect high-end features on it. This is just a single speed router that you can buy for around $130 (as of writing this).
Now, performance-wise the 690LR packs a nice punch. It’s 1.77 hp motor produces a torque of 0.34 pound-feet at a fixed speed of 27500 RPM. At this RPM range, the 690LR beats our budget pick in terms of cutting force. However, this router is limited to this RPM. You can’t change it.
Since the RPM is limited, it also means the size of the bits you can use is limited. At this RPM range, it is not wise to go for bits beyond 1 inch. What’s more, this machine gives an accuracy up to 1/128th of an inch. That’s twice as more precise than the DEWALT routers.
However, this router is a fixed model. But, you can use it with a plunge base that you can buy separately. If you’re going to work only from a router table, you don’t need a plunge base anyway. What makes this model even more attractive is the three-year warranty.
Routing is a great way to dress up a square piece of wood. With a router, you can create different patterns on edges using different kinds of bits. For example, using a router with a Roman Ogee bit, you can add a decorative flourish to the edges of a board in a matter of minutes.
There are hundreds of different kind of bits on the market. This makes the wood router is a very versatile tool. Whether you’re into carpentry recreationally or professionally, a router is a tool that every woodworker must have.
But, selecting a router isn’t simple. Mainly because there is no single metric for comparing the performance of one machine with another. The closest thing that comes to a uniform yardstick is the torque. But, many people don’t understand what torque is. So, they make the mistake of using RPM or horsepower to compare routers. This is a mistake. I will explain why.
Torque, horsepower, and RPM are common performance characteristics that manufacturers use to quantify the capability of their machines. Let’s begin with the most visible metric – the horsepower.
Every machine advertises its horsepower bodaciously. However, you should ignore this rating. The horsepower only tells you how much force the motor produces. It does not translate to cutting power.
Here’s an example. The Bosch MRC23EVSK has a 2.41 hp motor and the Bosch 1617EVSPK has a 1.93 hp motor. Now, you may think that the MRC23 is better than the 1617EV because it has more horsepower. But, the comparison isn’t that simple. Here’s why:
At its minimum speed, which is 10000 RPM, the MRC23 produces 1.27 pound-feet of torque. However, the 1617EV produces the same amount of torque at its minimum speed, which is 8000 RPM. Therefore, at their minimum speed, the two machines have the same cutting force.
Let’s see how this plays out at the maximum speed.
At its maximum speed, which is 25000 RPM, the MRC23 produces 0.51 pound-feet of torque. But, the 1617EV produces only 0.41 pound-feet of torque at its maximum speed, which is 25000 RPM. Therefore, at higher speeds, the MRC23 produces more torque than the 1617EV.
From this example, you must understand that you have to use all three parameters together to judge the capability of the machine.
If a manufacturer does not provide the hp rating for their machine, look at the voltage rating and the current rating. Then, you can find the horsepower rating using the following relationship:
Horsepower = (current rating x voltage rating) / 745.699
Even if the horsepower for the machine is available, you should use this method because this gives the true output of the machine, not the rated output. Once you have the horsepower, you can calculate the torque using the following equation:
Torque = (horsepower x 5252) / RPM
From the above relation, you should understand that torque increases with an increase in horsepower, and torque decreases with an increase in RPM.
Torque is a measure of the cutting force behind the bit. For example, a samurai, wielding a katana, can make a cleaner cut if he uses both his hands because there’s more force behind the blade. If he used only one hand, the cut wouldn’t be that clean. Since torque is a measure of cutting force, torque indicates the routers ability to cut materials of different hardness. Hardwood requires more torque than softwood.
RPM limits the diameter of the bit you use on the router. When you set the machine at 20000 RPM, it actually means that the machine’s shaft is running at 20000 RPM. If you attach a 1 inch bit to the shaft, the part of the bit overlapping the shaft rotates at 20000 RPM. However, the outer edge of the bit is moving at a much higher speed.
If your shaft’s diameter is 1/2 inches, then the speed at the end of a 1 inch bit is 40000 RPM. This is too high. If you put a 3 inch bit at 20000 RPM, the edge of the bit is moving at whopping 60000 RPM. So, if you want to use a large bit, buy a machine with low RPM ranges. For quick reference, you can use a rule of thumb. The product of the RPM and bit diameter should be between 30000 and 40000. But, every bit manufacturer provides the RPM range for their bits. So, be sure to check the specs before routing.
You shouldn’t worry about maximum depth of cut too much. As long as the difference between the models you’re comparing is less than a half inch, the depth of cut won’t make a huge difference. This is because you can run multiple passes to achieve the depth you want.
Now, the adjustment mechanism for depth makes a difference. The first thing you need to look at is the accuracy with which you want to work. Do you want to work within 1/64th of an inch or do you want to work within 1/128th of an inch? The accuracy depends on the kind of work you’re doing. For example, if you’re making joints, you’ll need a high level of accuracy. But, if you’re only using the router for dressing up the edges, and accuracy of 1/64th of an inch would do just fine.
So, before you buy a router, understand the purpose you’re going to use it for. Don’t pay extra for accuracy if you don’t need it.
Well, all the routers on the list are highly regarded for their quality and capability at their price range. So, if you’re going to get a router soon, please check out the models in the review section. I’m certain you will find a model that’s right for you. However, if you’re not able to find a model, you can check out routers from Black+Decker and Makita. And don’t forget to check other routers from DEWALT, Bosch, and Porter Cable.
Let’s conclude the article with a quick recap of what we’ve learned. First, you must measure a router’s capability by considering the trinity of the routing world – horsepower, torque, and RPM. Next, you must decide whether you need low RPM ranges for working with large bits. If you’re working on bits smaller than an inch, you don’t need a machine with a low RPM.
After that, consider the kind of wood you’re cutting. If you cut hardwood, go for a machine that yields high torque in the RPM range you selected. Lastly, define your operations clearly to understand the desired accuracy level. This will help you finalize the accuracy of the fine adjustment mechanism on the machine.
If you stick to these steps, you can easily find a router that fits your requirement. In addition to these performance criteria, you can consider some qualitative criteria, such as warranty, material quality, and brand reputation.
The router may look like a simple machine, but it is one of the most versatile tools in carpentry. These tools have been around for ages. But, thanks to technological advancements, modern day routers are more powerful and safer than ever. However, there are many options on the market. Unless you have the right knowledge and guidance, the variety can overwhelm you. Hopefully, this guide will serve as a resource for you to find the right router for you.
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